Tim Lucas, lead pastor of Liquid Church in New Jersey, told his congregation on Sunday that, contrary to the popular opinion within some Christian circles, the United States is not a Christian nation, and the majority of the people in his congregation seem to agree with him.
"When we call America a Christian nation, what that assumes is at some point in our history we were operating wholeheartedly in the kingdom of God," said Lucas.
He added, "There is no doubt our country has been blessed and influenced by Judeo-Christian values. We're thankful for that. But there's very little evidence that America as a whole ever had some golden age when we operated wholeheartedly with kingdom of God values."
Sunday marked the second part of Lucas' sermon-series titled, "Poll: Faith, Politics and the Future of America." As a part of the series, the church has been conducting polls via text messaging during the services at each of its four campuses. Real-time poll results for each campus are then shown at their respective locations as congregants text in their responses.
On Sunday, Lucas polled the congregation's knowledge of history by asking where the phrase "separation of church and state" originated. While some thought it came from either the U.S. Constitution or, more specifically, the First Amendment, Lucas explained that it actually came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptists in Connecticut in 1802.
Since that time the phrase has become widely accepted and is often used when discussing politics and religion. But Lucas says that when the First Amendment's establishment clause – which Jefferson was referring to in his letter – is used to suggest that "the state needs protection from the church," it is not being used in the way it was intended.
"Freedom of religion was established to protect the church from the state, guaranteeing us we can worship any way we want in public ... Unfortunately, in our culture, it's kind of got twisted a little bit," he said.
One major difference between the kingdom of God and man-made governments that Lucas highlighted during his sermon was the way in which they view power. Human governments use their "power over people" to enforce laws and control behavior., while the kingdom of God relies on "power under people" – sacrifice, humility and love – to affect not only behavior but to also touch the heart.
Lucas also offered Christians three principles to be applied during the current election season which will allow them to express their opinions without compromising the reputation of Jesus.
The first two suggestions were related to one another: Put the kingdom of God first, and the government second.
That means, he said, Christians should remember that they can win a political debate and at the same time lose their witness for Christ, because they can become more concerned with winning a political battle than extending Christ's love to others.
"We are Christians before we are Americans," said Lucas.
His last piece of advice was to "vote your conscience." Christians don't all have to vote alike; they can disagree on how to fix political issues in our nation, but even in their differences they should love each other.
An average of about 2,500 people each week participate in Liquid Church services via either one of the church's four campuses or Church Online. The "Poll" series, which kicked off Sept. 16, will continue through Oct. 7. The results of the first week's polls are shown in the infographic below: